Ch 56

V 1.0

A/N 1: The third section of this chapter is going to be very dark, with non-detailed allusions to gross abuse/torture about halfway in. If you can't handle that sort of thing, do not read the section in italics. Seriously. This is a M rated fic with parts set in Roanapur, and if a town like that existed in Real Life most people (including myself) would not be able to handle it.

Starbucks near Kanazawa High School
Hinata City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Metro Tokyo, Japan
early February, mid Monday afternoon

"I can't believe you talked me into doing this, Aki-san," said Sarah McDougal, staring at the unsmiling face across the table from her.

"Look, we need to hear what she has to say at least. She's not going to try anything, not after what happened to Junko-chan and her friends." Aki Wakirihara replied. "Besides, you have heavy back-up with you." The taller girl was referring to Nyamo Namo, who was literally standing behind and to the side of the blonde American. The dusky girl had her hands clasped in front of her stomach and the observant among them would notice that her sleeve cuffs were unbuttoned. But what was disconcerting was the look on Nyamo's face; her eyes would occasionally scan their surroundings and the two larger girls that were sitting at the other table but always come back to stare at the curly light haired girl in front of her. Kaolla Su was sitting at a table behind them, focused on and tapping away at a tablet and giggling occasionally. Shinobu Maehara had been sent home to the Hinata Inn in Jiro's minivan taxi with Hikari Horaki as an escort.

Sarah tilted her head slightly in acknowledgment. Focusing on the girl across from her, she gave a polite head bow. "I was told you wanted to speak to me, Kimiko-san?"

Kimiko Mori gave a slight snort before she returned the head bow, only slightly dipping her head. "I asked for this meeting because I want to clear some things up. I don't want the crap that Junko and her idiots started to slop over onto me." The brunette was dressed in the same pattern school uniform that Sarah, Nyamo, Su and Aki were wearing, but where Sarah and Aki wore the skirt slightly shorter than school regs required with white thigh high stockings and Nyamo and Su wore the regulation uniform with white knee length stockings, Kimiko was wearing a uniform that appeared to made to school specs by a tailor, which was better fitting and of better quality material than the store bought uniforms. Even now she was wearing what looked to be a cashmere cardigan sweater that matched the school colors but was probably worth more than all of Sarah's uniforms combined. Her curly brown hair was probably not natural, but it actually looked rather good on her; it was a lot better than the kogal girls with their bright yellow dyed hair and orange hued tan skin.

"I'm listening." Sarah knew that the other girl would rather be anywhere else besides here with her, so she was more than a little curious as to why she had asked for this, besides the obvious.

"Junko and her friends were acting on their own when they attacked Maehara-san. I didn't tell them to do it, in fact I told them to stop pushing other students around. What I can think happened is that she saw Maehara-san by herself and saw the chance to push around someone they couldn't get to before. She was always with Aoyama-san and Su-san, and when the Three Idiots saw her alone they could not help themselves," explained Kimiko.

"I've heard it said that Junko-san and her friends were doing dirty work for you. You saying that you don't have control over her?" asked Sarah in reply. She noted that the other girl had not used an honorific when referring to Junko, which with the nickname she just used for the three girls and the tone of voice she had been using was very disrespectful.

"Junko is too difficult to consistently control. The most I was able to do was point her at people that were causing problems and let her deal with them. She knew there was a line she shouldn't cross so we both got something out of it." The look and tone on Kimiko as she spoke made it seem as though she was giving domestic servants orders rather that directing physical violence.

Sarah could feel Nyamo shift slightly behind her even as she tried not to react openly herself. Staring at the girl across the table the American was getting a good feel for the type of person that she was; someone that would give orders to hurt or ruin someone about as casually as someone ordering a decaf latte in a coffee shop.

"You know, for a person that's saying that they're not responsible for what someone else is doing, you're doing a piss-poor job of getting it across." Sarah eyed the now scowling girl opposite her. "Especially someone that was arrested by the police for assault with intent to cause bodily injury. It could open up charges of accessory before the fact." The American girl was not completely familiar with how Japanese criminal law worked, but she figured it was at least somewhat similar to American laws, especially since the United States has helped set up the country's new constitution and legal codes after the end of the Pacific War.

The scowl on Kimiko's face faded away, being replaced by a pale complexion. "Look, after the school administration put out the word that you and your friends were not to be bothered, I passed the word to Junko. It's not my fault the crazy bitch attacked your friend."

"No, but it is your fault you were using a crazy bitch as muscle for your little gang and she slipped your leash. If she hadn't thought that this kind of thing was going to be ignored she probably wouldn't have done it. After all, if the school admin looked the other way so many times before, what's one more time when a prime piece of meat comes across their path?" Sarah was openly scowling as she leaned forward across the table, her eyes fixed on the girl who was now leaning away unwittingly. Even the other girls who were sitting behind Kimiko were moving away slightly.

"Let me tell you a little story, this is about something they don't teach much about here in Japan, I had to read about it in an American history book online." Out of boredom and curiosity while she was recovering from her chi over-usage Sarah had flipped through the history books that were assigned to high school students, all three years worth. She had to borrow the mid and upper classmen books from Naru, but what was in there about a certain era of Japanese history was eye-opening… or rather what was not there. "During the Pacific War there was this city in China called Nanking that was taken over by Japanese troops, and even though the commanding general gave orders to keep his troops from going nuts after they captured the city they did anyway. It didn't help that instead of surrendering the Chinese troops got rid of their uniforms and tried to hide among the civilians so the lower ranking officers and men used that as an excuse to kill and loot and burn. That and the troops raped any female they could get their hands on, no matter how young or old. There were even two junior officers that were having a contest to see who could first behead one hundred people with swords, almost all of them were prisoners and civilians." Kimiko had gone from pale to bone white, her friends looked like statutes and Aki had become wide-eyed.

"Over a quarter million people died in that city, and even though the commanding general gave orders to prevent atrocities it was still his fault, because his officers weren't following his orders and he knew it and didn't stop it. Japanese high command knew what happened and it looked so bad they retired him. After the war the Allies put him on trial, found him guilty, and hung him. Those two junior officers were tried and shot by the Chinese government." Sarah's forearms were flat on the table, she was leaning forward so much. "Nowadays they call that 'command responsibility', that if the people under your command commit crimes that you should have been able to stop and you didn't, you're just as guilty. You were using Junko-san as your enforcer and now you're trying to play it off that you didn't have anything to do with what she did. Bullshit, you're just as guilty as if you had been standing there watching as Junko-san was about to kick Shinobu-chan. So don't sit there thinking your shit don't stink, you're as full of crap as a bag of fertilizer." Sarah leaned back and took a deep breath, visibly trying to calm down.

"What would you have wanted me to do?" Kimiko's words were both a complaint and a question.

"You mean besides not using your pet psycho to beat up anyone who pisses you off? Or having your boyfriend do the same with his crew?" Surprise flashed across Kimiko's eyes, and Sarah nodded in acknowledgment. "Yeah, I know that Hayate-san and his friends were looking for Aida, I doubt it was for anything good. You think people don't talk at school, they do that more than study. I hear that they even went by his house looking for him but he had left town by that point." Aki sat back at that bit of info, not having heard about that. In fact, it had been Hikari that had told Sarah, since she lived next door next to the Aida residence and recognized the boys from school that had been hanging around for a couple of days. Hikari had mentioned it when Sarah had asked for an update on the hentai photo otaku, who apparently was now hiding out with family in the town of Hakone on the other side of the prefecture.

"So what do you want to do now?" Kimiko's face was still ashen.

"You probably figured that the law's not going to be able to do anything about you, so you think you're going to get away with this. You are, this time." Sarah was staring coldly at the brunette across from her, who was fidgeting in her seat. "But you also think you're queen bitch of the school, so you're going to get to learn the flip side about being in charge. Congratulations, you are now responsible for all the actions of your little pack of nitwits. We hear about any bullying crap happening because of your crew, the first person we are going to blame after the actual doer will be you." Kimiko looked like she was about to protest but Sarah kept talking. "You think that because of the loopholes in the school rules you can get away with crap, but that works both ways, it's not just your crew and your boyfriend's gang that can play with the rules. Here's another little history lesson for you, the term outlaw was originally a form of punishment in European medieval times where someone was declared outside the protection of the law, that meant that anyone could kill the outlaw without legal repercussions. After all, you can't be protected by the law when you're breaking it yourself."

"But there's rules in place now, everyone is protected by law." Kimiko's words were almost a whine.

"You want to go and tell Shinobu-chan that?" The look on Sarah's face would have frozen a glass of water. Kimiko wisely kept her mouth shut while slightly shaking her head. "You might want to pass the word to Hayate-san too."

"He's not going to go along with that, I can barely get him to do what I want most of the time." Kimiko was shaking her head again as she spoke.

"Well then one day either he or one of his nitwits are going to be pushing someone around and hurting them, then they are going to turn around and see someone standing there with a big old smile on their face." The expression on Sarah's face was not a nice one. "All's I'm saying is something pretty simple: no more hurting people. You want to talk shit about someone be my guest, I'm not the thought police here. But if I see someone laying hands on someone who can't protect themselves it's not going to be pretty." Blue eyes were fixed on brown ones across the table, until the brunette looked away.

"You only have three or four people in your group, Hayate-kun has a dozen boys in his crew, you really think you're going to stop him?" Kimiko was looking away as she spoke.

"What makes you think it's going to be physical?" Seeing the brunette blink at her Sarah turned to look over her shoulder. "Su-chan, you done there?"

"Here you go Sarah-chan, it wasn't deep search, but interesting things pop up." The blonde islander girl passed her tablet over to the American teen, a slight pout on her face. The other blonde looked at the display for a long moment before glancing up at the girl across from her.

"You know Kimiko-san, that's a really fancy custom school uniform you're wearing there, it looks to have cost a lot of money. Much more than the daughter of an assistant convenience store manager father and an office lady mother could normally afford, especially with three kids in the family." Kimiko started to look pale again. "Plus that's a Coach handbag if I'm not mistaken, and a Gucci wristwatch. I don't even want to think about how much that cashmere sweater of yours is worth."

"That's illegal." Kimiko's eyes were fixed on the tablet on Sarah's hand.

"This?" Sarah waved the tablet slightly before handing it back to Su, who started tapping at it again. "This is just a computer search of your family name through public records, there's only so many Mori living in this school district with kids the right age. Once you get that you do that you run searches though company directories and email addresses and those give employment titles, and from there you can get a good estimate as to salary ranges. This is just ten minutes of work, and it's all above-board and legal. But when you take that info and then take a good look at you…" Sarah gave a smile that was not quite evil. "All sorts of interesting questions come up about where you get the money for all that bling."

"Enough." Kimiko sagged in her chair. "You win. I'll pass word to everyone that no more physical stuff is to happen, if they do they're on their own. I'll tell Hayate-kun, but like I said, I can't control him."

"Your boyfriend isn't an idiot, right?" Sarah asked. Seeing Kimiko shake her head she continued. "Explain to him, in small words if you need to, what happened to the last person who tried to physically hurt someone I cared about who couldn't protect themselves." The blonde leaned forward and gave her best dead eye stare at the other girl, who cringed back. "It's called 'defense against great bodily injury', and that makes it legal," Sarah almost purred, a smirk on her face. "Remember, I'm all about being legal here." The brunette nodded silently, not having anything to say.

Leaning back, Sarah picked up her forgotten cup of coffee and sipped at it, grimacing at the now tepid drink. Drinking it down quickly, Sarah placed the paper cup on the table and quickly wiped her lips with a napkin. Balling it up she picked up the cup and stood from her chair, Aki beside her quickly following suit. "I wish I could say this was an enjoyable talk, but we all know that's not true. Let's just hope we don't have to have another one." The blonde gave a medium bow, her blue eyes never leaving the brunette's brown ones. "Have a good day, Kimiko-san." Turning away, Sarah walked away from the table with Aki, Nyamo and Su following behind her, Kimiko and her associates staying sitting in their chairs.

After tossing the cup and napkin into the trash, Sarah made her way toward the trolley stop down the block. Aki fell in beside her on one side and Nyamo on the other with Su beside her. Walking along for a few moments, Sarah finally looked over at the taller girl. "Spit it out Aki-san."

"Did you really have to bring up the war, Sarah-chan? Most people don't react well to it, especially older people." There was a frown on the otherwise cheerful girl's face.

"People who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. And I really don't like hypocritical people who think they are better than everyone else. That was the problem then and it's a problem now. A whole bunch of atrocities happened during the war because Japanese officers and troops thought anyone who surrendered or who wasn't Japanese weren't human, that they could do with as they wanted. I didn't even go into detail about it, hearing about that will ruin your appetite for a week." Sarah kept walking along as she spoke. "Kimiko-san thought she could just talk her way out of this mess, it's worked for her so far. But she has to learn sometime, your actions eventually have consequences."

"And bringing up her family and her clothes was part of those consequences?" Aki was watching Sarah's face, who kept looking forward.

"Remember, legal. Keitaro-san got on Su-chan's case for what happened to the Three Idiots and their cell phones. There only so much we can do before we break the law ourselves, and we already crossed that line before with Aida, I really don't want to do it again, Keitaro-san won't react well to it. If spooking Kimiko-san will keep her from hurting people, I'm cool with that." Sarah glanced over at Aki for a moment before looking forward again.

"And if she goes the other way? What if Kimi-chan and Hayate-kun ignore you or get worse?" Aki asked.

"Then we know who's responsible and we deal with it." Seeing that Aki was still frowning at her, Sarah continued talking. "You know, there is another case of command responsibility that resulted from the war. When the U.S. invaded the Philippines late in the war the Japanese commanding general there ordered all his troops out of Manila and to regroup for battle in the countryside, but a Japanese admiral who wanted revenge for losing his battleship earlier in the war sent naval and marine troops into the city with orders to fight to the last man and turned it into a battlefield. In between fights the Japanese committed all sorts of atrocities against the civilian population. The whole city wound up flattened, a hundred thousand civilians were killed by both the Japanese directly and by American artillery because they had to fight house-to-house. After the war the commanding general was tried for war crimes, even though he had ordered his troops out and the troops that stayed behind were not under his command and refused orders to leave. This guy had even shot some of his own troops and officers earlier in the war for committing atrocities against civilians and prisoners, but the Americans and the Philippines tried him, found him guilty, and hung him too. This guy didn't blame the Americans for finding him guilty, and he even thanked his legal defense team before he was executed."

The four girls walked silently for a few more moments before Aki spoke up again. "You said a Japanese admiral was the one that ordered the fight in Manila, what happened to him?"

"Just before the end of the battle the admiral committed suicide with a hand grenade. They weren't able to identify his body afterwards. Take that as you will." Sarah looked over at Aki again. "When you say you are in charge, you are responsible for everything. It ain't just glory that comes with command." Seeing the trolley coming up to the stop, Sarah gave a slight head bow to the taller girl. "See you later, Aki-san." Before the other girl could react the Hinata girls all boarded the trolley and it pulled away from the stop, leaving Aki standing there for a moment before she walked away.

Unnamed street outside The Cottage Italian Restaurant,
Hinata City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Metro Tokyo, Japan
early February, midday Tuesday

Contrary to what most people would think, it was possible for a female who was 168 cm tall with light purple hair to inconspicuously follow someone, they just had to work at it. Chief Inspector Motoko Kusanagi had years of experience and training to draw on, but her subject today was still pushing her to the limits.

Motoko had been called to Daisuke Aramaki's office late yesterday before she was about to leave for home. The older balding man had glanced at her for a moment before tossing her a bound file folder with red and white tape borders on the edges, done only with compartmentalized intelligence. Undoing the elastic band holding the folder shut, she read the name of the file's subject and the security rating assigned to the information within; Motoko's eyebrows went up upon seeing that this file had a Level Two rating, meaning only minimal concealment of information and sources. Level One was complete disclosure of all available information and was only accessible by agency heads or people specially cleared due to their assignment. The previous folder she had seen on the subject had been Level Three, and all it had contained had been a listing of the subject's background and political connections, which had been interesting enough. Now in this file she could see why Public Security Section 9 and the Public Security Intelligence Agency was interested in Keitaro Urashima.

Seeing the query on his subordinate's face, Aramaki had told her that Urashima's name had come up on a computerized wiretap they had on a yakuza cellphone that had arranged for a meeting with the local oyabun. While not involved in criminal activities, the Urashima family had connections to various yakuza groups and his involvement now had created interest in the higher ranks of the National Police Agency, who then asked for Section 9's assistance. Seeing the slight disbelief on her face, he told her to read the most recent reports in the file, and directed her to sit on the couch in his office, as the file could not leave the room.

Five minutes of reading later Motoko was shocked. Apparently as a high school senior the young Urashima had been involved in a brawl with multiple biker gang members who had tried to abduct his younger sister and had severely injured all of them except for the last, who died as a result of a throat strike. Urashima had been taken into custody and subjected to physical interrogation until the clan matriarch literally pulled him from the police station with the help of a chief superintendent and had the abusive officer fired. A year later a similar incident occurred with two gang members trying to abduct and rape a tenant of the dormitory of which he was a manager, with the two gangsters winding up with seriously crippling injuries as well, only that time he had been released after giving a statement to the police. Looking up and asking Aramaki who the hell this guy was, he merely directed her to read the file sub-section that listed his skills and clearances. Seeing that he was a chi fighter with suspected ki skills was surprise enough, but seeing that he was an authorized security contractor with a NPA firearms possession and carry permit was almost unbelievable. Motoko knew a few chi fighters due to her police and intelligence work, but for someone who was not a government employee to have a firearm permit was unheard of. But that was nothing compared to the shock she felt when she read the last report in the file. Marked as unconfirmed single-source intelligence, the report stated that a man matching Keitaro Urashima's description had been seen operating Roanapur, Thailand with activities unknown. However there had been a major conflagration that had resulted from a battle between criminal gangs that had occurred at that time, and the detailed intel on that battle was classified Level One.

Motoko had a sinking feeling what this was all about when she finished reading the file, and the orders Aramaki had given her had confirmed them. Her boss ordered her to follow the Urashima and try to see who he associated with at the meeting and try discover why the meet had been set up. Technical Services would bug the meeting place tonight and leave the devices off until just before the meeting to try and prevent detection. She was authorized to have a team of agents assist her, with a tech van nearby. Giving a soft sigh, Motoko handed the file back to her boss and came to a close approximation of attention before Aramaki dismissed her.

Now after almost an hour of concentrated tracking Motoko was outside the restaurant where the meeting was supposed to take place. Using reversible jackets and two different wigs and hats the intelligence officer had changed her appearance four times, and it was barely enough. Even though Urashima had taken the trolley to the train station and then casually walked to the restaurant Motoko was not able to get too close to him… every time she got within ten meters of him there would be a twinge in her gut and she would barely be able to duck away before he turned to look behind him. But to put the gilding on the lily, when the young woman tried to enter the location the smiling hostess told there the entire restaurant had been booked for a private luncheon. Trying not to let her shoulders sag in defeat, Motoko went across the street and was currently working on a beef bowl with onions while talking to the surveillance tech in the phone company van down the street on her Bluetooth earpiece.

"Pazu, what can you tell me?" Motoko asked in between forkfuls of her meal.

"Bugs are up and ready, Inspector. Primary target just walked in, secondary has been there for five minutes. Turning them on now." The bearded computer tech could be heard tapping away on a computer for a few seconds before he spoke again. "Bugs in working order, I'm picking up background noise now. Just waiting to hear where they are sitting and I'll make that the primary mike." The tech team had entered the restaurant in the early hours of the morning and planted a baker's dozen bugs throughout the main eating area, the VIP section, and even in washroom, to Motoko's disgust. As backup they had a secondary team on the top floor of a store two buildings away aiming a laser mike at the side window of the eating area to pick up on sound vibrations from people talking.

"Copy, standing by." Motoko sipped at her hot tea for a few moments before Pazu spoke again.

"Got the mike, they're sitting in the middle of the main dining area. Patching you in." With a few clicks Motoko could now hear the sounds of people moving items around a dining table. Finally the sound of a chair being pushed back was heard then a voice was heard.

"Greetings, I am Keitaro Urashima, grandson and heir to Hinata, head of the Urashima clan. Our family sends it greetings and wishes for good fortune in the future." The first voice came through clearly.

"Greetings, I am Katsuo Kobayashi, son and heir of the Kobayashi family. I am here taking the place of my father Kenta due to his ill health. We thank you for your greetings and wish the same to your family" A second voice was heard.

"My thanks to you for seeing me on such short notice. If you will forgive me, can you please read this note before we begin our business?" There was the rustle of paper, apparently being passed from Urashima to Kobayashi. There was a few moments of silence before the yakuza lieutenant spoke.

"This will be done." There was some whispers that the mike was not able to pick up then silence for about five minutes before there was a sound that Motoko had never heard before; a faint scree ending in a loud bang, then static.

"Pazu, what happened?!" Motoko was rubbing her ear containing the Bluetooth earpiece, which was hurting slightly from the loud sound. There was silence for a long moment before her associate came back online.

"Inspector, all the bugs are down! I had to check, but it looks like a localized EMP burst fried all the electronics involved, all the mikes are dead." There was disbelief in the tech's voice, not that Motoko could blame him. A device needed to produce an electromagnetic pulse was about the size of a steamer trunk, something that none of the players had been seen carrying into the restaurant.

"Switch to the laser mikes then." A few more moments of silence before Pazu responded again.

"You're not going to believe this Inspector, but there are transistor radios leaning against the windows playing J-pop music, they can't pick up anything else." Motoko's head sagged for a moment before coming back up again.

"Go ahead and crack into Urashima's phone and use it as a remote mike, my authority." Section 9 had the technology to hack into a mobile phone and use it as a microphone bug and GPS locator, even with the phone powered down. The software to do this had become publically known after it had been used to track down and kill Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, but most criminals were not aware of it. It was not used often except by special authorization, but Motoko was now intensely curious as to what Urashima was hiding.

There was more keyboard clicking for about a minute before she could hear Pazu sigh. "Urashima's phone is powered off, and I can't remote start it, he probably pulled the battery. In fact that location is a cellular dead zone, there are no cell phones broadcasting in that restaurant, it's literally a blank spot on my display."

"Well, shit."

Motoko did let her head droop now. Short of covertly entering the restaurant, one that had a half dozen kobun soldiers walking around inside and outside of it now, there was no way to hear what was going on now. Giving a sigh, Motoko pushed her now empty bowl aside and waved for a refill on her tea. "Keep monitoring and stand by, maybe we'll get lucky."

"It's been a long time since we've seen each other, Keitaro-kun." The young man in the sharply tailored suit with light brown hair leaned back in his chair smiling at him. "It looks like you've learned some new tricks," referring to the ki ball that had been popped to disable surveillance. They were sitting alone at a table in the middle of the otherwise empty dining area, the kobun having withdrawn to a discrete distance.

"Not since the end of second year of high school, Katsuo-kun. And I never stop learning." Keitaro replied, returning the smile. The two young men had attended a prestigious prep school together, with Katsuo a year ahead of him and using his mother's family name to avoid the notoriety that his father's affiliations brought up. They had discovered the truth at a gathering where current clan heads brought younger members of their families so they could get acquainted with other. After a short period of awkwardness, they had become good friends and occasionally sparred, as Katsuo was a chi adept as well. "I see you've done well for yourself. Already shateigashira at your age?" He was referring to the title of second lieutenant in a yakuza family, usually in charge of a local group that reported to the second in command of the family.

"There's been a lot of movement in the families due to the schism. You've heard about that, of course?" Katsuo watched as Keitaro nodded. The largest yakuza group in Japan, the Yamaguchi-gama based in Kobe, had fractured and was currently engaged in open war amongst the different factions. This was nothing like the criminal gang wars in the Americas or Russia, but the fact that they were using firearms against each other was considered shocking, resulting in a major police crackdown, even though the war was still continuing. "Our family is still allied with the Inagawa-kai, and we're doing our best to keep things calm. However there are other criminal groups taking advantage of the chaos, and some have made headway."

Here Katsuo paused for a moment. "Remember Yukio Washimine?" Keitaro nodded; the girl had been the daughter of the head of a separate yakuza family, but unlike Katsuo she had wanted nothing to do with criminal activities. Yukio had been a year behind Keitaro in the same school, but they did not have much to do with each other even though they had been relatively friendly. "Her father passed away and his second Tsuigo Bando tried to work out a deal with a foreign group to assist the family against their enemies, the Kousa Council. Well, things got away from him when the gaijin were more violent than the Washimine were able to handle, and Tusigo-san tried to take out them out to protect the group. They turned it around on him and his men and they were all wiped out. Out of obligation Yukio-san became clan head and tried to fight back with her bodyguard Ginji Matsuzaki, but they died in the end. Ginji-san was fatally wounded by a gaijin gunwoman, and Yukio-san committed suicide with his sword to keep from being taken prisoner and made into a figurehead."

Keitaro bowed his head and whispered a prayer. Yukio had been a kind young woman, but Ginji had been an honorable man. He had met him once at a street festival and had been deeply impressed by him; he had tried to get away from his past as a yakuza soldier and enforcer, but apparently his dedication to duty brought him back into the family. Ginji had been one of the few swordsmen that was not a grandmaster that he was sure he could not beat in a straight kendo match, as he was a high level chi adept that brought those skills into battle. In fact, in a duel between him and Tsuruko Aoyama, Keitaro would have to give the edge to Ginji, no pun intended. "So the Washimine territory was taken over by the Kousa?"

"No, that's what so ironic about what happened. The gaijin destroyed the Kousa as well, so they took over both territories. The other clans are getting nervous, these gaijin are no joke. They use automatic weapons and explosives, apparently they are all Russian army veterans of the Afghan war, and their boss was their commander. And get this, their boss is a woman!" Katsuo exclaimed. "She was the one that killed Tsuigo-san and his bodyguards, with her bare hands even!"

Keitaro went still, so much so that Katsuo picked up on it and looked at him strangely. "What was the name of this gaijin group?" Keitaro asked calmly.

"Hotel Moscow. Strange name, no? This group is based out of Thailand, they use the name Bougainvillea Trade Company as a front. Right now they are concentrating on smuggling, but the gods help us if they start dealing weapons, that would bring down too much heat on us," explained Katsuo. Keitaro nodded silently, visibly thinking to himself for a long moment before focusing back on his friend. "If you don't mind my asking, why the call to meet? I don't mind the get together but presumably you have something in mind."

"Since I was named Granny Hina's heir, I've been working my way through most of her local contacts. It's only right that I reach out to the head of the ninkyo dantai here in Hinata City." Keitaro was referring to the title which the yakuza sometimes used to refer to themselves, 'chivalrous organizations'. Of course the police did not see them that way, referring to them instead as boryokudan, 'violent groups.' "I also needed to thank you for assisting me on that matter regarding the Maki family."

Katsuo waved a hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it, you actually helped out by getting involved with them. We were about to start collection efforts, and that kind of thing doesn't work out well for anyone. More times than not we sell the debt to another group and let them deal with it. With the Maki paying off their debt we have steady income and we don't have to dirty our hands." The Kobayashi family was one of the rare groups that tried to stay away from violent activities, as it drew too much official attention to them. They mostly concentrated on protection rackets, real estate and construction dealings, smuggling and gambling. That was not to say they would not use physical force if needed, but they tried to limit it to defense of their territories and the people who bought their 'protection'. "So what's this about you now being a manager of a girls' dormitory?" Katsuo asked with a smirk, changing the subject.

Keitaro sighed. "Granny converted the Inn to a dorm, there's about half a dozen girls living there." Seeing his friend's eyes light up, he continued speaking. "And most of them are minors, you pervert. The ones that aren't are a tsundere, a scammer, and my little sister."

"Ouch." Katsuo chuckled. "How is Kanako-chan doing? Still crushing on you?"

"Worse. I saved her from a bad jam about a year ago, and her crush almost got out of hand. I had to leave the country for a while after I failed to enter Todai and Kana-chan didn't take it well. I brought her to the Hinata-sou to act as the assistant manager, and she's calmed down some. She still isn't happy with me because of my girlfriends." Keitaro paused, then mentally kicked himself for his slip, one that his companion picked up.

"Wait wait, what?! Girlfriends, plural?" Katsuo asked incredulously, grinning.

"Yeah. I met two girls that were roommates and they both decided on their own that they wanted to be with me and not leave the other out. So they asked me and I couldn't say no." Keitaro was avoiding eye contact as he spoke.

"You're with two girls and they both know about each other? You lucky bastard! The only way that it could be better is if were twins or lesbians lovers!" Katsuo saw Keitaro wince slightly and his mouth dropped open. "They are! They're lesbian twins!?"

"No, you pervert! Miyuki-chan and Natsumi-chan are not sisters." Keitaro was still not looking at him.

"But they're lesbian lovers, right!?" Seeing Keitaro reluctantly nod, Katsuo laughed out loud. "You're more than lucky, you're blessed by the gods themselves!"

"I don't think it's much of a blessing. Much of my luck tends to run in extremes." Keitaro glanced up at his friend.

"Well, at least it's never dull around you." Katsuo grinned. Picking up a small ceramic bottle of sake that was in a larger pot of hot water, the young yakuza poured some in two saucers and passed one to his friend. "A toast! To your strange luck!"

"To my strange luck." The two young men sipped their drinks and placed the saucers on the table, only for Keitaro to pick up the sake bottle and refill them. Seeing his friend pick up the drink Katsuo followed suit, raising an eyebrow. "To absent friends and family," Keitaro said softly.

The smile on Katsuo's became a solemn look. "To absent friends and family," he repeated. The two raised their saucers and drank again before putting them down and became silent for a long moment before finally resuming their conversation.

"Good day, Inspector Kusanagi. It's good to see you again."

Motoko cursed silently. After spending about an hour at the beef bowl restaurant sipping tea she finally saw the young Urashima leave the Italian restaurant across the way and leisurely start walking down the street. She had taken off after him, taking care to stay a fair distance back but still keeping him in view. They had not been able to reactivate the bugs in the restaurant or pick up anything usable from the laser mike, but she still had her job to do. Walking for two blocks, Motoko saw the young man turn a corner, and she hurried her pace, not wanting to lose him, only to find him leaning against the wall, looking right at her.

Sighing, Motoko responded. "Good day, Urashima-san." He did not look angry or nervous, instead he looked somewhat amused.

"Lovely day for a walk, isn't it? I try to get some exercise after big meals, don't want to get fat." It was all Motoko could do not to snort at Keitaro's words; as a chi adept it was very unlikely for him to get overweight. "I was going to do some shopping, Valentine's Day is coming up, and I have to get ingredients together."

"Ingredients?" That sounded odd.

"Yes, since my family are confectioners and bakers, I've been making chocolate gifts from scratch for Valentine's Day for years. This year I think I am going to make brownies with walnuts, that tends to be popular." Keitaro smiled at her.

"Sounds interesting." Motoko was trying not to react, but she had a sweet tooth and talk about brownies was starting to awaken a craving in her.

"Well, I don't want to take up too much of your time, Inspector. I'm sure I'll be seeing you around." Keitaro's smile thinned out some.

"Perhaps." It was disconcerting to see that smile aimed at her; it wasn't threatening, it was more along the lines of 'I know what you're doing, even if you can't say why.'

"Have a good day, then." Keitaro straightened and started walking away before looking back for a moment. "By the way, I think I preferred the black to the red," he said with a half smile before turning and walking away.

Motoko stood motionless for a long moment. The two wigs she had worn to change her appearance earlier had been red and black; which meant that he had realized she was following him almost from the beginning of the surveillance run. Cursing again she started to walk away, trying to determine what gave her away before she came to a halt when the answer struck her.

Keitaro Urashima was a chi adept. And one of the skills they had were the ability to detect chi usage in others. Even if people were not martial artists, they still had chi, and Motoko was a skilled martial artist. The detection range of chi depended on the adept, but it was usually fairly close, about five meters. However, Urashima was believed to be beyond adept level, maybe even master level, which would increase his sensing range. So every time Motoko got within ten meters she would feel the twinge in her gut, which was her detecting his chi usage. All that implied was that ten meters was her detection range… which implied that his detection range was greater than that…. much greater.

Motoko Kusanagi muttered to herself as she turned back to walk to the tech van. She had to return to the office to write a report about today's activities and she did not look forward to it.

another place
long ago

The loud alarm was blaring in time to the blinking lights. The electronic tone would sound for a long second spaced three seconds apart, while white strobes would flash overwhelming the flickering fluorescent lights in the lobby. He did not know if it was because it was an actual intruder alarm or because he had triggered the fire alarm and sprinklers for the building when the front door was breached, but everyone knew he was here now.

He walked toward the hallway of the medical clinic wearing only his suit and tie, his dark glasses still on his face even though they were inside a building and the fire sprinklers soaking him as though he was standing in a rainstorm, water beading on the lenses. This appearance was nothing compared to that of the two men behind him; they were in full battle armor and gear with assault rifles at the ready, constantly looking around to make sure they were not ambushed as they moved along, one man wearing a ball cap with a Union Jack patch, the other a battered green U.S. Marine cover.

"Akira! This is not fucking subtle!" The man in the Marine cover almost screamed over the blaring alarm. "Everyone's gonna come after us!"

"Good." The suited man replied. "That way we don't have to go looking for them." Proving his words, two gunmen with AKs ran from the hallway, but before either the gunmen or his two companions could bring up their weapons, Akira raised his right arm from his side and fired two rounds from his nickel plated Glock pistol, the gunmen's heads exploding one after the other. Without pausing the young man walked past the still twitching bodies and paused at the doorway they had emerged from. Taking a quick look around from the doorway he stepped into the hall and kept walking.

"Goddamnit, Akira!" Now the man in the British cap gave his opinion. "Slow the bloody hell down!" as the two men followed after him almost at a jog, still looking around frantically, only to come to a crashing halt when the young man stopped at the next doorway and pressed his left hand to his ear.

"Oz-san, we are at the end of the hallway leading to the rear of the building. Any change in the live stream?" he asked calmly.

"No change yet, Akira." A young man's voice replied through the earpiece, sounding anxious. "The filming is still going, but it's going to end soon, I don't think she can take much more!"

"No luck on building plans, Oz-san?" The man in the suit was exchanging the partially loaded magazine in his pistol for a new one as he spoke.

"This is Roanapur, they don't exactly having a city planning office here, let alone one online!" The exasperation in the voice on the radio was massively apparent.

"I know you better than that Oz-san, what do you have?" The young man looked up and toward his two companions, who were listening to the conversation on their own earpieces.

"I was able to get satellite pictures online, so I can give you a rough outline of the building." Oz replied in a rush. "If you're standing at the end of the first hall you have to go through the door and turn left and walk to the end of the second hallway. The operating theater is at the end."

Operating theater…

A place to heal, to repair…

Now a place to hurt, to break, to tear apart.

Oz had been working on a way to backtrack the videos that had given them proof of life. On one hand it was fairly simple; Roanapur was not exact a tech heavy locale, so tracing the various satellite and internet signals should be fairly simple. However almost all traffic was criminal in nature, so it was rerouted and encrypted every which way. But the young musician was able to crack an improperly encrypted live stream on his computer and immediately regretted it

The stream was from an interactive website, where paid subscribers could watch and request certain acts to be performed.

The site was a torture and snuff film producer, and they were live streaming their next project.

The subject of the video stream was a young blonde girl.

He was about to switch away from the website in horror and disgust when the temperature in the room dropped thirty degrees in five seconds and a soft voice that sounded like it should be coming from a crypt spoke behind him. "Where is this taking place?"

Oz almost literally jumped out of his chair and turned to see Hiroyuki Akira standing behind him looking at the computer screen. His eyes were covered by his dark glasses, but Oz knew what he was looking it.

The girl on the table.

The bare-chested man in the leather mask holding the electric welding gun.

The chat window beside the picture listing all the things that the subscribers wanted done. There were currently twenty people online watching this, having paid the equivalent of one hundred dollars to get the access codes to this page.

The word LIVE blinking in red in the corner.

He had turned the volume down on his computer, but shrieks of agony could still be heard faintly.

Oz thought smashing his computer, about drinking enough tequila that he would burn out all memory of this day. But seeing that gaze slowly turn toward him, he knew he had to answer. "It's here in Roanapur," he whispered through dry lips.

"Can you find them?"

A simple question, but one that made him want to run away. "Yes."

"Do so." Akira then turned and walked into the arms room. Realizing what the other man was intending to do, Oz started yelling for Gaz and Billy even as he frantically worked to trace the live stream's origin.

The two men started cursing as soon as they saw what was on the screen, started yelling when they realized what Akira intended, and then hurriedly started gearing up when they saw that he was going to go anyway, with or without them.

Ten minutes later Oz was able to get the location. Ten minutes of those faint screams and shrieks. Ten minutes of Oz feeling the freezing cold sensation of Akira standing behind him waiting for him to finish his work. Once he did the young man walked out to the van and got in, Billy and Gaz jumping in after him and tearing off toward the target building.

Only one thing was said on the way.

"You can't save everyone!" Billy snarled in frustration as he drove, only to almost freeze up at the look Akira gave him. He kept silent after that.

Arriving at the rundown medical clinic, Akira stared at the steel plated door set in the cinder block wall that was the front entrance. Gaz was starting to pulling a spool of det cord from his vest storage pouch when the young man walked up to the door and after looking at it for a moment, kicked it as hard as he could.

The resulting crash sounded like a car had hit the building, and left a large dent in the door.

Akira kicked the door three more times, each impact sounding like a thunderclap.

The steel door held. The door frame did not. The door fell clear of the wall and crashed to the floor inside

Stepping through the gaping door shaped hole, Akira saw two men running toward him screaming in Thai while holding a pistol and a shotgun respectively. Without hesitation he drew his pistol and fired twice. The two men fell to the floor, their heads blown apart by hollowpoint bullets. He looked around for a moment as the fire sprinklers soaked him, paying no attention to the cold dirty water before moving from the reception area toward the back of the building.

Now he was waiting at the door to the last hallway. At the end of the hall was the operating theater. A room where the formerly shiny white tile was splattered in grime and blood.

A man burst through the door he was standing next to, apparently following after his now dead compatriots.

Akira grabbed the man with his free hand by the throat and choke-slammed him against the wall. Holstering his pistol, he slid his left hand to the man's chin while his right hand went to the back of his head. With a sharp jerk and a loud meaty pop he broke his neck and dropped him to the floor. Drawing his pistol again, he looked through the new open doorway, not seeing his partners looking at him with wide eyes. He then stepped back sharply, barely avoiding the automatic weapons fire that roared out from the end of the hall and flew though the door.

Akira was casually leaning against the wall of the hallway with the other two men pressing themselves against the opposite wall, rounds flying between them, the angle of the hall keeping them out of line from the incoming fire. "It looks like they don't want to let us through," the young man said softly, his voice barely audible over the roar of gunfire.

"No shit, Sherlock!" Billy snarled. "What's your brilliant idea now?!"

The young man gazed toward the doorway for a moment before looking back at them. "I'm going to need covering fire, I need to stand in the door for two seconds with a clear line toward the other door, can you do that?"

"Are you fucking nuts!?" The older man almost screamed back. "You'll be chopped to pieces! We need a grenade launcher for this!"

Akira looked toward Gaz now. "Can you do it?" he asked softly.

The British merc thought for a second before nodding. "It will be spray and pray, though."

"Good enough. If you can, crouch and fire, I'm going to stand over you and fire my attack, when you see it go down the hall fall back and cover up." Akira shifted so he was facing the door. "Stand ready."

Gaz turned toward the older man. "Billy, duck across the hall and make ready when I fire, I'll reload and then we both fire, understand?" The old Marine nodded reluctantly and checked his rifle. Thirty seconds later they were both set, kneeling on opposite sides of the door. "Ready, Akira-san?"

The young man nodded, holstering his pistol and brought his cupped hands together. A spinning blue sphere of energy about the size of a baseball formed in his hands with a scree sound, one that grew to the size of a basketball before rapidly shrinking down to the size of a large marble, one that was now a brilliant blue-white and screaming loudly. "Now Gaz!" The two men started firing single shots as fast as they could, and just before their mags ran empty Akira stepped into the doorway, lined up toward the far door and fired the ki ball down the hall. Gaz ducked back and screamed "FLASH!", while squinting his eyes shut and looking away, a move that Billy followed, and not a moment too soon.

The resulting explosion in the far room as the compressed ki sphere detonated made the kicks Akira used to break down the front door sound like a weak firecracker. The entire building shook and dust rained down from the ceiling before the young man flash-stepped down the hallway. Gaz and Billy started chasing after him when the next barrage of gunfire started, but not one that was aimed at them.

Everything except him was now moving at one quarter speed, as though they were underwater. But his own speed was still the same, and his Glock came up and toward the four dazed and disoriented men staggering around the room. Two gunmen, one cameraman, one bare-chested man in a leather mask.

Four cracks, one right after the other. Four sprays of blood and brain matter. He swept the room. Two more shots into the camera, destroying it and knocking it over.

The only living people in the room were him and the girl. Akira swept the room one more time and then dropped back into normal time. A moment later Gaz and Billy ran into the room and immediately gagged at the smell. The smell of burning flesh. The smell of people losing control of their bowels upon death. The smell of blood.

Akira walked up to the girl strapped to the stainless steel table and pressed his free hand to her throat. A faint heartbeat was felt. He looked over her bloody body. After a few moments he had to look away. Every major bone in her limbs was broken. Almost every inch of skin was burned or cut or torn.

Gaz stepped up the girl and examined her for a few moments. Looking up at Akira he shook her head. "Too much damage, too much blood loss. Even moving her can kill her," he whispered. "She won't survive the trip to a hospital."

A sound was heard. The three men looked around before they realized where the sound was coming from.


It was the girl. She was conscious.

"…please…please…" The girl was looking at Akira, her one functional brown eye fixed on his face, the other a bloody burned ruin. "…please…"

The look on her face and the tone of her scream-ruined voice made it obvious what she wanted. She wanted the pain to stop.

Akira looked from Gaz to Billy. The older American man turned and walked a few steps away, anger and grief on his face. The British merc looked at him for a long moment with sorrow in his eyes before nodding and turning away as well.

Looking back at the girl, he could see bloody tears leaking from her remaining eye. "…please…"

Akira nodded and holstered his pistol. Moving his hand slowly he stroked her bloody cheek with the back of his fingers before moving up to softly close her eyelid. His hand then moved down to her chin, while his other hand moved to the back of her head. He could feel the blood soak into his skin as he tightened his grip.

Just before his hands made the sharp jerking turn, Akira heard more two words.

"…thank you…"

Keitaro Urashima woke with a start, breathing heavily, his heart racing, the blood roaring in his ears along with the sound of rain pouring outside. He tried to sit up.

He could not.

He could not move.

He was paralyzed.

All he could do was lie there panting, the only thing he could move was his chest as he breathed and his eyes as he looked frantically around his darkened room. It felt as though there was a massive weight on his chest and limbs.

It was as though he was buried alive.

Just before he was about to panic and supercharge the chi in his body, Keitaro realized what this was.

Sleep paralysis.

When people dreamed in their sleep, their bodies locked themselves down to not move so they would not hurt themselves. This was especially true during nightmares.

Sometimes though nightmares were so terrifying that people would wake up but their bodies were still locked down. They would lay in bed paralyzed, unable to move. It was what had given rise to the legends of incubi and succubi, evil spirits that would sit on the chests of sleeping men and women and suck the breath and life-force from their bodies.

The body would eventually relax and unlock.

But even when Keitaro Urashima could move again that rainy night, all he did was lay there crying.

A/N 2: This is about as bad a torture/abuse scene I am going to write for this story. If it makes anyone feel better, the rest of the physical abuse in this story will be directed toward bad guys.

For those asking why I would write this into the story, I have to show why Keitaro is having problems after his return to Tokyo from Roanapur. Keitaro learned one very important lesson in Roanapur; no matter how strong or fast or smart you are, sometimes you can't save everyone. Keitaro hates hearing that phrase even now, but it won't stop him from trying. For those that do not remember, Akira was Keitaro's alias while he was in Roanapur.

The references to the massacres and atrocities in Nanking and in Manila are historical fact, as well as what happened to the generals involved. The two junior officers mentioned did get convicted and shot for war crimes after the war. There are Japanese ultranationalists that deny the Nanking Massacre happened or that it was as bad as it was, even though it is internationally acknowledged that it did occur. They even tried to get Japanese army veterans to testify that it did not happen, but the veterans confirmed it instead.

Motoko Kusanagi will be a minor recurring character in the story; she will not be one of Keitaro's girlfriends though. She is not a cyborg but she is a skilled martial artist and intelligence agent. Section 9 will be attached to the Public Security Intelligence Agency instead of the National Public Safety Commission like in Ghost in the Shell. Section 9 is an investigations unit that has under it remit counter-terrorism, counter-cybercrime, and 'special circumstances' i.e. criminal activities by chi/ki users. Motoko uses the rank of Chief Inspector (detective supervisor) as a cover, otherwise she would be a supervisory special agent in PSIA.

For those reviewers that liked Mutsumi's appearance (heh heh) last chapter, I have not made up my mind if she is doing it deliberately or innocently. I just know that it's pretty damn amusing. Aki is pretty fun to write as well.

This chapter's Most Unusual Place Reading My Story Award goes to Finland; the world's deadliest sniper, Simo Hayha, came from there (500+ recorded kills in three months). Runner Up goes to Belgium.

My thanks to my beta readers AZ MII and PCH, and to my FFN beta WalkerofDarkness for their quick work and commentary this chapter.

As of 0100PDT 31Oct16 this story has 335K words, 746K Views, 880 Reviews, 1367 Story Favorites, 1251 Story Alerts, and 61 C2 Listings.

Thanks again to everyone for reading this story. Happy Halloween! *starts throwing virtual mini-chocolates to everyone*